Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras

by Nancy Nickerson

Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras has taught violin to East Harlem children for 13 years. "I get them revved up, excited about music, and they stay focused," says Guaspari-Tzavaras. So when budget cuts ended her program in 1991, Guaspari-Tzavaras wouldn't take it lying down. She rallied parents and the community. When she and her young students held a benefit concert, Itzhak Perlman joined the standing ovation. The program was able to continue and it also brought her the "Hero for Today" award from the Reader's Digest Association.

Isaac Stern is also a big fan of Guaspari-Tzavaras's dedication and fruitful efforts, but it's her students who really count. "She helps us when we mess up," says nine-year-old Wendy Casteneda. "The violin gives me beautiful music. And I'm an 'A' student because of it. I dream of playing at Lincoln Center someday."

Guaspari-Tzavaras's students have performed with the New York Symphony, the Julliard School's Music Advancement Program and at the White House, so Wendy's dream may just come true.

A documentary film about her called Small Wonders was nominated for an Academy Award in 1996. Further developments inspired by this teacher include a feature film, released in October 1999. Music of the Heart starred Meryl Streep as real-life violin teacher Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras.

Page created on 7/29/2013 3:07:13 PM

Last edited 1/6/2017 9:28:18 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Opus 118 Music Center, Inc. - supports Roberta's East Harlem Violin Program and the site includes her contact information.
Voices of Youth - Voices of Youth is a forum for teachers and students.
Global SchoolNet Foundation - The Global SchoolNet Foundation links school kids around the world.

Extra Info

Musicorda Celebrates a Decade of Dedication to Music .

View the trailer for the movie Music of the Heart, which stars Meryl Streep as Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras. This movie is partly based on the documentary, Small Wonders, which stars the real Roberta and some of her students.

Related Books


Author Info

Teacher hero Jackie Melnick, founder of Musicorda's "Children's String Workshop," named Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras her hero. Guaspari-Tzavaras' teaching remains a highlight of Melnick's summer program.

Samantha Reyes, from Bloomfield New Jersey, writes:

Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras is my hero because she taught music on the violin. I love any kind of music, so I think she is a wonderful teacher. All her students are taught to focus on what they are doing. Roberta let children learn how to play an instrument and have fun. I think Roberta is a very gifted person to be able to teach children how to have fun with an instrument.